Alberta Health Services EMS training day prepares up-and-coming paramedics

It’s a difficult job, and lately it’s filled with even more pressures: the health system is taxed, with full emergency rooms and a hospital bed shortage.

The province is also in the middle of an opioid crisis. Primary care paramedic student Evan Vokins wants to be a part of it.

“Getting to see the environment we are in, and what we will be doing, definitely adds perspective,” Vokins said.

He is one of several students who took part in an EMS training day hosted by Alberta Health Services, as part of National Paramedic Services Week.

The event is targeted at up-and-coming paramedics to gain a better understanding of the life-saving skills used every day by EMS practitioners.

Read more: Alberta funds injectable treatment Sublocade as opioid-related EMS calls spike

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“A lot of people think, ‘Oh you’re going to get in the back of the ambulance and you’re instantly going to be running to an emergency,’ but there is a whole lot more to it and the world of paramedicine is expanding,” Vokins said.

Public education officer Jillian Maier said this is the first hands-on event they have been able put on since the pandemic, and students being able to come in-person makes a big difference.

“They build that connection, they build that relationship, it makes them feel more comfortable, they can be better on the job and it just opens up a lot of doors for our students,” Maier said.

“Being a paramedic is a job unlike any other. When you come to work, you’re expecting to have a day where you have no idea what is going to happen — a lot of us enjoy that about our job.”

Read more: EMS responded to 85 opioid-related calls in Edmonton over 4 days in July

The community paramedic team was also highlighted — iIt’s one of the newest branches, operating in Alberta for about 10 years.

These paramedics are dispatched through a virtual hospital, and can go to people’s homes to administer things like IV bags, catheters and stitches. Community paramedic Marla Bartel said the program is continuously growing.

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Bartel said at first, their services focused primarily on long-term, assisted-living care.

“We would go in to treat a patient at home, and that was about the only demographic we dealt with,” Bartel said.

“We have expanded each year to help a wide variety of people.”

Bartel said this will free up an ambulance, a hospital bed and hours of the patients’ time.

“Our team just primarily wants to lighten the load — lighten the load of the emergency systems because it’s taxed and we are able to just take a little bit of pressure off.”

EMS staff and paramedics respond to more than 589,000 events each year, about 1,600 calls a day.

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